The yard looks beautiful! How long did it take you to “smother” it? How did you do it?
— Kaitlin


Hello, Kaitlin, thanks for your question.

The front lawn was liberated in the early 1990’s when we transformed it into edible landscaping. Having moved into a home Pasadena in 1985 from a 10 acre rural property in Florida, Farmer D didn’t want to continue spending time caring for and watering such worthless piece of ground. Being the radical he was, he declared war on the wasteful lawn and smothered it under a layer of newspaper and loads of free mulch. Much easier (on the back) than digging all that grass out.

Of course, it was an unusual decision at the time and our neighbors thought us crazy – well, we were already looked at as crazy anyway being the then only white family on the entire block. Looking back, we were definitely in the forefront of the lawn liberation movement that is now sweeping the nation. Neighbors would walk by, stop and point at all the vegetables growing the front yard and also point to the stunning and colorful massing of wildflowers growing alongside. We had already planted a garden in the backyard the summer we first moved in (1985). Still, it was rather an odd feeling having squash and corn growing in the front yard; but, the awkward feeling soon passed when we realized that the front yard now was actually productive providing our family with food and beauty. So what if the neighbors thought us oddball? We were taking a stand against the conformity of society by growing food in our front yard. If you know you don’t want to be “like the Joneses” but you aren’t sticking out, then what’s the point?

That was nearly 18 years ago and look where this radical act has taken us. It was followed by even more liberating steps on our urban sustainable journey: citified farm animals, alternative energy, transportation, alternative cooking methods, waste, water, etc., etc. Once we took the first step, we couldn’t stop there. The sustainable path if full of basic, alternative steps that eventually lead to independence and true freedom.

I’ve diverted a bit from the question, but it just goes to show you how one radical step leads to another and another. You have been warned! *wink* Liberating your lawn is liberates more than your lawn from wasteful practices — you, too, become liberated.

Free yourself and grow your own food. Plant a front yard Victory Garden. The results are beautiful and productive.

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  1. kristi says:

    How do you keep your citrus so beautiful? I live between two commercial citrus orchards which unfortunately are not organic. I am trying to grow my own organic citrus, but they get a black soot on them and the leaves curl. What can I do? I live south of New Orleans. Thanks for all the help after Katrina. I am attempting to liberate my lawn a little at a time.


  2. Donna says:

    Your yard is beautiful, we are on the path to do the same with our yard. I refuse to waste water on grass, and plant a garden instead. Last spring was our first attempt at the front yard garden. This year it is much better planed out, It will take a few years to get it to how I want it.. I too had people walking by and stopping admiring the tomatoes, watermelon, and squash, beans and corn. It has become quite the conversational starter to meet new neighbors!

  3. Emily B says:

    I really enjoy the term, ‘Liberating the front lawn’
    When we moved into our house 5 years ago, there was 10 very ill looking native trees in the frontyard.
    Now there is only 6. 2 are currently on death-row, to make way for fruit trees. This is because I am running out of room in the back…. *grin*

    I wonder what our neighbours will think when I get the chainsaw out? Hopefully we will inspire them….

  4. Chris J says:

    Thanks so much for all that you guys and gals do to inspire the world. My life has been very different since I found your site, very different and much better. I can hardly wait to see what you are up to next. Thanks for being part of my days and my life.

  5. Kaitlin says:

    Thanks so much for your reply!

    This week we cut down all the ornamental trees and shrubs in the front yard to make room for the fruit trees I will plant instead.

    Keep it up!

  6. Sarah says:

    Have any of you neighbors been inspired to follow in the lawn liberation movement?

  7. Anais says:

    Hello Kristi

    Good for you – glad you too are joining the lawn liberation movement. Your one of DEM DATS DOING…. excuse the New Orleanish-like phrase. 😉

    BTW, how’s New Orleans doing these days? One day we’ll get around to going back – it’s almost like “home!”

    My Aunt went back in April and my Great Aunt is supposed to move back into her home (which was near the 17th street levee and had about 6-8 feet of water)

    For those of you who aren’t familiar with New Orleans my Great Aunt lives in the Lakeview area. The Lakeview neighborhood in New Orleans is struggling to get back on its feet after six-eight feet of water from the 17th Street Canal flooded the area.

    Growing citrus naturally is a challenge and diagnosing such ailments can be tough since there are many factors that can be involved.

    Check out this link:

    Or these helpful tip from web gleanings:

    CONTROLLING DISEASES – Black spot, brown patch, powdery mildew and other fungal problems:
    Best control is prevention through soil improvement, avoidance of high-nitrogen fertilizers and proper watering.

    Manure compost tea (or liquid Humate) Label directions or if homemade, 1 cup/gallon of water
    Molasses (blackstrap) 1 ounce/gallon
    Seaweed (liquid) 1 ounce/gallon (liquid), 1 teaspoon/gallon (dry) or label directions
    Natural apple cider vinegar 1 ounce/gallon

    Spray Garrett Juice plus garlic and/or neem. Baking soda or potassium bicarbonate sprays are also effective.
    Treat soil with cornmeal at about 20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft. Alfalfa meal and mixes containing alfalfa are also good disease fighters.

    Hope this helps. Keep us posted.

    Happy spring!

  8. Anais says:

    Donna, Emily B, Chris J & Kaitlin

    Thanks for the comments everyone. We enjoy reading how you too are turning wasted lawns into productive edible landscape. Keep it up!

    When we transformed our lawn nearly 20 years ago who would have thought that this radical act would eventually be a movement. With climate change, peak oil, rising food costs and ever increasing food miles – lawns are certainly a waste of valuable resources and time. Turning lawns into edible landscaping and small scale orchard culture is smart move towards taking control of our food system.

    Keep us posted on your progress and thanks for sharing!


  9. Anais says:


    That’s a good question and one hard to explain without you seeing our neighborhood first hand. The demographics of our neighborhood is quite unique – it’s a low income forgotten neighborhood right near a major freeway. Actually our street was cut off to make room for the freeway that runs about a hundred yards behind our little urban homestead.

    At our end of the block a private school borders three sides of our property and the house next door is being renovated. So as you see we really don’t have any “close” neighbors. The middle of the block there are a few Latino and African American families who are mostly renters. Towards the the end of the block there are new construction of 6 or 8 new town homes with absolutely NO yard.

    So as you can see it’s not a very typical block ….


  10. Mel says:

    We live on a corner lot and the meridian strip (between the sidewalk and the street) occupies more square feet than our entire house. (The house is small). Anyway, we tried to take out the bermuda and crab grass “lawn” last year, which seemed to damage the backs of everyone involved and the stuff is still growing back.

    In the backyard we tried a different approach. We had the city deliver all the tree trimmings it had chipped that day and we spread it over the backyard (about 2 inches worth). A year later, there’s a nice layer of compost under a nice layer of small wood chips. But, there is still lots of grass popping through.

    I’m ready to try again. What exactly do you suggest? How much newspaper (how thick) and how many inches of mulch? And the biggest question of all – Will it ever get rid of the grass? How long will it take before it’s gone?

  11. Lucy says:

    In response to Mel, you can smother it with 6-8 layers of newspaper, or a layer or two of cardboard would do as well, with 3-4 inches of mulch. If the backyard is completely enclosed, and you have the opportunity, letting chickens run around for a while will take out any surviving plants, and help compost the wood chips. If you plan to plant vegetables, check out lasagne gardening, (on the website, or several books) which will give you ideas on how to build beds that you can plant in and smother grass at the same time.

  12. Mel says:

    Hi Lucy. I appreciate the advice. There was a great discussion on gardenweb about bermuda grass and here’s the link.


  13. mlcas says:

    I just wanted to say that I have used the newspaper and thick mulch to smother grass and weeds and it works wonderfully. Here in central florida, weeds and the like grow overnight, and I have only had to pull very few in the garden beds.

  14. NEW BEGINNINGS | Little Homestead in the City says:

    […] blog exposed the underside of the seed industry; encouraged people to ‘Say Ahhhh’; Liberate their Lawns, be a ‘Conscientious Consumer‘ or the change they wish to see with IMBY and listed our […]

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